"So this is the foundation for my
internet diary - searching for the
truth and seeing what else comes
along on the way."
05.19.99 diary entry
Cast of Characters
Funny Story #3: The Conference Table
Quote of the Day:
�Then I went to my lab to host tours for conference attendees and to hold impromptu office hours at the same time. That's actually a funny story, but I'll elaborate further in a future diary entry.�
Just About Everything, 10.20.03 diary entry
Most graduate students at one time or another have the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant in order to earn their meager salary. After my experiences maybe I should call it something less positive than an opportunity, but that depends on the school and the assignment. In any case, a TA is a unique position because you find yourself a slave to both professor and students no matter what else you have going on in your life.
Last fall I was the TA for the undergraduate aircraft propulsion course and it was absolutely overwhelming. The class had fifty students and was taught by a guest lecturer from industry who was only on campus two days a week. This left me in charge of the class the rest of the time and added another responsibility to my already long list that quarter. So I held office hours twice a week, kept the class webpage constantly updated, taught class on Fridays, and still found myself at the beck and call of the fifty students. If they needed my help I had to be there because the instructor couldn�t be very often. This is the reason I found myself in a rather precarious situation, in more ways than one.
In October 2003 the Western States Section of The Combustion Institute (WSSCI) held their meeting at UCLA and my research group was involved in hosting the event. When I wasn�t in class or otherwise occupied I was working at the sessions and attending the presentations as a representative of my research group and UCLA. Unfortunately I was very tired because it was the middle of the quarter and that made the otherwise only slightly interesting presentations even more difficult to sit through. One of the afternoons, even though I wasn�t in class or working I couldn�t go home because I had promised a few students from the aircraft propulsion class that I would meet them for extra homework help. Since the WSSCI conference attendees were scheduled to go on lab tours that afternoon I was already going to be in my lab so I just told the students to meet me there. They arrived before the tour groups so I started the impromptu study session.
My lab isn�t exactly the ideal place to hold office hours because the dry erase board is located on the wall behind a desk and is difficult to write notes. After a few minutes of trying to lean over the desk to scribble diagrams and equations I gave up and climbed onto it to get closer to the board. As I stood up on the desk I said to the students, �Those guys are probably going to walk in right now.� The tour group didn�t show up just then, but about a minute later instead. So there I was, standing on a table when ten people arrive in the combustion lab for a tour. This was funny for two reasons (although I was mortified at the time). First, I had predicted it just before it happened. Second, I was standing on a table. That�s just the impression I want to make on industry representatives and visiting academics. I must have looked like a total idiot at the time, scrambling to get down from the desk as fast as I could and compose myself for the lab tour. I wonder if anyone took me seriously when I was explaining the purpose of my research after that incident. Looking back the situation is really hilarious, though.
So now I have told the story that I intended to write one year ago. This is one of the more memorable moments from my time at UCLA and I will remember it fondly. It may be one of the only moments I remember fondly so I�m glad to have it written down. It�ll help me forget all the bad moments.